Category Archive 'WWI'
11 Nov 2019

Martinmas aka Armistice Day, later Veterans Day

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WWI came to an end by an armistice arranged to occur at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The date and time, selected at a point in history when mens’ memories ran much longer, represented a compliment to St. Martin, patron saint of soldiers, and thus a tribute to the fighting men of both sides. The feast day of St. Martin, the Martinmas, had been for centuries a major landmark in the European calendar, a date on which leases expired, rents came due; and represented, in Northern Europe, a seasonal turning point after which cold weather and snow might be normally expected.

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From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869:

St. Martin, the son of a Roman military tribune, was born at Sabaria, in Hungary, about 316. From his earliest infancy, he was remarkable for mildness of disposition; yet he was obliged to become a soldier, a profession most uncongenial to his natural character. After several years’ service, he retired into solitude, from whence he was withdrawn, by being elected bishop of Tours, in the year 374.

The zeal and piety he displayed in this office were most exemplary. He converted the whole of his diocese to Christianity, overthrowing the ancient pagan temples, and erecting churches in their stead. From the great success of his pious endeavours, Martin has been styled the Apostle of the Gauls; and, being the first confessor to whom the Latin Church offered public prayers, he is distinguished as the father of that church. In remembrance of his original profession, he is also frequently denominated the Soldier Saint.

The principal legend, connected with St. Martin, forms the subject of our illustration, which represents the saint, when a soldier, dividing his cloak with a poor naked beggar, whom he found perishing with cold at the gate of Amiens. This cloak, being most miraculously preserved, long formed one of the holiest and most valued relics of France; when war was declared, it was carried before the French monarchs, as a sacred banner, and never failed to assure a certain victory. The oratory in which this cloak or cape—in French, chape—was preserved, acquired, in consequence, the name of chapelle, the person intrusted with its care being termed chapelain: and thus, according to Collin de Plancy, our English words chapel and chaplain are derived. The canons of St. Martin of Tours and St. Gratian had a lawsuit, for sixty years, about a sleeve of this cloak, each claiming it as their property. The Count Larochefoucalt, at last, put an end to the proceedings, by sacrilegiously committing the contested relic to the flames.

Another legend of St. Martin is connected with one of those literary curiosities termed a palindrome. Martin, having occasion to visit Rome, set out to perform the journey thither on foot. Satan, meeting him on the way, taunted the holy man for not using a conveyance more suitable to a bishop. In an instant the saint changed the Old Serpent into a mule, and jumping on its back, trotted comfortably along. Whenever the transformed demon slackened pace, Martin, by making the sign of the cross, urged it to full speed. At last, Satan utterly defeated, exclaimed:

Signa, te Signa: temere me tangis et angis:
Roma tibi subito motibus ibit amor.’

In English—

‘Cross, cross thyself: thou plaguest and vexest me without necessity;
for, owing to my exertions, thou wilt soon reach Rome, the object of thy wishes.’

The singularity of this distich, consists in its being palindromical—that is, the same, whether read backwards or forwards. Angis, the last word of the first line, when read backwards, forming signet, and the other words admitting of being reversed, in a similar manner.

The festival of St. Martin, happening at that season when the new wines of the year are drawn from the lees and tasted, when cattle are killed for winter food, and fat geese are in their prime, is held as a feast-day over most parts of Christendom. On the ancient clog almanacs, the day is marked by the figure of a goose; our bird of Michaelmas being, on the continent, sacrificed at Martinmas. In Scotland and the north of England, a fat ox is called a mart, clearly from Martinmas, the usual time when beeves are killed for winter use. In ‘Tusser’s Husbandry, we read:

When Easter comes, who knows not then,
That veal and bacon is the man?
And Martilmass beef doth bear good tack,
When country folic do dainties lack.’

Barnaby Googe’s translation of Neogeorgus, shews us how Martinmas was kept in Germany, towards the latter part of the fifteenth century

‘To belly chear, yet once again,
Doth Martin more incline,
Whom all the people worshippeth
With roasted geese and wine.
Both all the day long, and the night,
Now each man open makes
His vessels all, and of the must,
Oft times, the last he takes,
Which holy Martin afterwards
Alloweth to be wine,
Therefore they him, unto the skies,
Extol with praise divine.’

A genial saint, like Martin, might naturally be expected to become popular in England; and there are no less than seven churches in London and Westminster, alone, dedicated to him. There is certainly more than a resemblance between the Vinalia of the Romans, and the Martinalia of the medieval period. Indeed, an old ecclesiastical calendar, quoted by Brand, expressly states under 11th November: ‘The Vinalia, a feast of the ancients, removed to this day. Bacchus in the figure of Martin.’ And thus, probably, it happened, that the beggars were taken from St. Martin, and placed under the protection of St. Giles; while the former became the patron saint of publicans, tavern-keepers, and other ‘dispensers of good eating and drinking. In the hall of the Vintners’ Company of London, paintings and statues of St. Martin and Bacchus reign amicably together side by side.

On the inauguration, as lord mayor, of Sir Samuel Dashwood, an honoured vintner, in 1702, the company had a grand processional pageant, the most conspicuous figure in which was their patron saint, Martin, arrayed, cap-Ã -pie, in a magnificent suit of polished armour; wearing a costly scarlet cloak, and mounted on a richly plumed and caparisoned white charger: two esquires, in rich liveries, walking at each side. Twenty satyrs danced before him, beating tambours, and preceded by ten halberdiers, with rural music. Ten Roman lictors, wearing silver helmets, and carrying axes and fasces, gave an air of classical dignity to the procession, and, with the satyrs, sustained the bacchanalian idea of the affair.

A multitude of beggars, ‘howling most lamentably,’ followed the warlike saint, till the procession stopped in St. Paul’s Churchyard. Then Martin, or his representative at least, drawing his sword, cut his rich scarlet cloak in many pieces, which he distributed among the beggars. This ceremony being duly and gravely performed, the lamentable howlings ceased, and the procession resumed its course to Guildhall, where Queen Anne graciously condescended to dine with the new lord mayor.

An annual post.

15 Aug 2019

A Nice WWI Story

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WWI Iron Cross Second Class.

From John Bogin at Quora:

My father served in the South Lancashire Regiment, The Prince of Wales Volunteers in WW2.

One day I was visiting the museum for the Lancashire regiments in Preston, Lancashire. While I was there I saw a medal box which, among other medals, contained an Iron Cross from World war one.

The officer I was talking to told me the story behind the medal and its owner, who I believe, was called Albert. Anyway, I will call him Albert from here on.

I must say that sometime has passed since this conversation and so I am going to fill in some blanks and add, what I hope you will find funny. But when I tell this story I always get a lump in my throat.

Albert was between the lines, in no man’s land, when he was seriously wounded. That night a German search party came out. I presume that they were looking for their own men but I don’t think they were worried about taking a British Tommy back.

They got him back and he would be sent to the nearest hospital. His uniform would be cut of, his wounds attended to and then he was put to bed in a hospital just behind the lines filled with German wounded. By now he would be wearing German army pyjamas.

One day the door opens and a German army general comes into the ward. You can imagine all of the staff standing rigidly to attention when he came in. He addressed the wounded patients. He told them that they were all heroes. They had all fought and been wounded for their country. As a result, they were all to be awarded the Iron Cross, you can imagine him stopping by each bed, awarding the medal, stepping back and saluting the soldier and then moving on to the next.

Was Albert awake or conscious ? I don’t know but I bet you a £5.00 that he didn’t speak German.

I imagine two German orderlies standing to attention as the is happens, call them Hans and Karl.

Karl. “Hans do you think that the General knows that the man in bed 14 is a Tommy?”

Hans “Of course he will. He is the General.”

Karl. “But what happens if he doesn’t and give’s the Tommy a medal?”
Hans ”Good point. You had better tell him.”

Karl “Me. You are senior to me. Oh too late. The Tommy has just been awarded one of the highest honours that Germany can bestow.”

In due course the General found out what had happened and was asked what should happen. Did the Tommy get to keep the medal or should it be taken off him? Well- I told you he gets to keep it.

The General said that the medal had been awarded to men who were heroes. They had fought and were wounded for their country. He was such a man and, as such, he deserves the medal.

I am raising a glass to the German General. I wish I knew his name.

14 Jun 2019

British Regional Edwardian Accents

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German scholars made more than 200 recordings of British POWs during WWI in an effort to study regional speech and accents. Surprisingly, these century-old voices have survived to today.

HT: Aram Bakshian.

11 Mar 2019

WWI Aerial Combat Trophy

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Hermann Historica GmbH
March 15, 2019, 1:00 PM CET
Munich, Germany

Lot 1178: First Lieutenant Hermann Kraft – a goblet of honour “Dem Sieger im Luftkampf”

Early silver issue with decorative hammer marks and the engraved dates of his first shootdown “30. Nov. 1915 Macquart b/Lille” underneath a scene of fighting eagles in relief on the obverse. The base ring with inscription “Dem Sieger im Luftkampf” (tr. “To the Victor in Aerial Combat”), the mark of fineness “800” with crescent moon and crown, and four ball feet underneath. The bottom punched with inscription “Chef des Feldflugwesens” (tr. “Chief of Field Aviation”) with Prussian eagle. Height 19.5 cm, weight 382 g. Comes with four photographs of Kraft, two picture postcards, a letter from the 8th Bavarian Reserve Division and a burial ground certificate with a photograph of a visit to the grave. Hermann Kraft (1889 – 1916), in 1915 lieutenant and observer with the Bavarian Field Flying Detachment 5, in 1916 observer of the squadron leader of Fighter Squadron 33, First Lieutenant Oskar Jilling, on 30 July 1916 both were killed in action at Vaux-Verdun. Very rare goblet with engraving of shootdown, in untouched condition, from family possession.

Quite an item! The bidding is already at €6,200.

13 Nov 2018

WWI: Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

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Above: Cameron Highlanders Regiment, 1914. Below: Cameron Highlanders, 1919.

24 Jun 2018

From Ernst Junger’s Personal Collection

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German steel helmet Mod. 1916 from the collection of Ernst Jünger. Steel, leather | L 31 cm, W 24 cm, H 17.5 cm, G 1250 g | Wilflingen, Ernst Jünger Foundation.

“The steel helmet gives the soldier a desolate look,” noted front-line officer Ernst Jünger (1895-1998) in August 1916 as his unit, the 73rd Infantry Regiment became equipped with the new head protection of the Prussian troops. The engineer Friedrich Schwerd (1872-1953) had designed the helmet with an extended eyeshield and a deep neck guard in 1915 according to military medical specifications, after it had been shown that the spiked leather cap could not provide the soldiers in the trench fighting of the Western Front with sufficient protection. The new helmet was delivered to the troops beginning in the spring of 1916. In the course of the war, 7.5 million of them were produced.

In an infantry assault during the offensive in Flanders, December 1, 1917, Jünger was struck by shrapnel on the head. Although the projectile broke through the helmet, Jünger suffered only minor injuries. The helmet thus became the writer’s most important war trophy and was always kept within reach for life, along with a second steel helmet that Jünger had taken from a fallen English officer in the summer of 1917.

His detailed war diaries served Jünger as the basis for his war memoirs published as Storm of Steel, 1920, which made the writer famous and notorious. Jünger’s description of the murderous battles of the First World War is one of the most important literary sources for what George F. Kennan called “the catastrophe of the 20th century.”


Bavarian Army Museum, Ingoldstadt.

22 Oct 2017

Multiple Mausers

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The Austro-Hungarian aircraft gunner in the picture is seen using a Mauser C96 pistol combination, probably just for demonstration. Each pistol held a clip of ten bullets and the device attached to them fired them in unison, giving the gunner the ability to rapidly fire 100 rounds in volleys of 10. Two bars passed through the five upper and five lower trigger guards and were attached to the single aiming grip that can be seen in his hand. It had a trigger at the end which was pulled to fire all ten pistols at the same time. Given the close arrangement of the pistols, if the gunfire did hit the enemy aircraft, it would have been like using a shotgun. With the light frame and canvas structures of early war aircraft that might have been enough to bring it down. But one has to wonder how long it would take, and how difficult it would be, to reload and re-mount all ten pistols while maneuvering and trying to avoid nearby enemy aircraft.

RareHistoricalPhotographs.com

27 Sep 2017

Achtung Todesgefahr

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“Beware: danger of death.”

14 May 2017

Anti-Aircraft Position Atop a Zeppelin

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Three Parabellum MG14 machineguns positioned atop a German Zeppelin.

14 Jan 2017

Looks Like Business

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Belgian Farman F40 Reconnaissance Plane with Death’s Head Nacelle, pilot Lt. Jaunotte (left), observer Lt. Wooters.

14 Nov 2016

General Winter (He’s on the Russian Team)

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generalhiver375

11 Nov 2016

Armistice Day, Later Known as Veterans Day, also known as Martinmas

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—this post is repeated annually—

WWI came to an end by an armistice arranged to occur at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The date and time, selected at a point in history when mens’ memories ran much longer, represented a compliment to St. Martin, patron saint of soldiers, and thus a tribute to the fighting men of both sides. The feast day of St. Martin, the Martinmas, had been for centuries a major landmark in the European calendar, a date on which leases expired, rents came due; and represented, in Northern Europe, a seasonal turning point after which cold weather and snow might be normally expected.

It fell about the Martinmas-time, when the snow lay on the borders…
—-Old Song.

From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869:

St. Martin, the son of a Roman military tribune, was born at Sabaria, in Hungary, about 316. From his earliest infancy, he was remarkable for mildness of disposition; yet he was obliged to become a soldier, a profession most uncongenial to his natural character. After several years’ service, he retired into solitude, from whence he was withdrawn, by being elected bishop of Tours, in the year 374.

The zeal and piety he displayed in this office were most exemplary. He converted the whole of his diocese to Christianity, overthrowing the ancient pagan temples, and erecting churches in their stead. From the great success of his pious endeavours, Martin has been styled the Apostle of the Gauls; and, being the first confessor to whom the Latin Church offered public prayers, he is distinguished as the father of that church. In remembrance of his original profession, he is also frequently denominated the Soldier Saint.

The principal legend, connected with St. Martin, forms the subject of our illustration, which represents the saint, when a soldier, dividing his cloak with a poor naked beggar, whom he found perishing with cold at the gate of Amiens. This cloak, being most miraculously preserved, long formed one of the holiest and most valued relics of France; when war was declared, it was carried before the French monarchs, as a sacred banner, and never failed to assure a certain victory. The oratory in which this cloak or cape—in French, chape—was preserved, acquired, in consequence, the name of chapelle, the person intrusted with its care being termed chapelain: and thus, according to Collin de Plancy, our English words chapel and chaplain are derived.

The canons of St. Martin of Tours and St. Gratian had a lawsuit, for sixty years, about a sleeve of this cloak, each claiming it as their property. The Count Larochefoucalt, at last, put an end to the proceedings, by sacrilegiously committing the contested relic to the flames. …

The festival of St. Martin, happening at that season when the new wines of the year are drawn from the lees and tasted, when cattle are killed for winter food, and fat geese are in their prime, is held as a feast-day over most parts of Christendom. On the ancient clog almanacs, the day is marked by the figure of a goose; our bird of Michaelmas being, on the continent, sacrificed at Martinmas. In Scotland and the north of England, a fat ox is called a mart, clearly from Martinmas, the usual time when beeves are killed for winter use. In ‘Tusser’s Husbandry, we read:

When Easter comes, who knows not then,
That veal and bacon is the man?
And Martilmass beef doth bear good tack,
When country folic do dainties lack.’

Barnaby Googe’s translation of Neogeorgus, shews us how Martinmas was kept in Germany, towards the latter part of the fifteenth century

‘To belly chear, yet once again,
Doth Martin more incline,
Whom all the people worshippeth With roasted geese and wine.
Both all the day long, and the night, Now each man open makes
His vessels all, and of the must, Oft times, the last he takes,
Which holy Martin afterwards Alloweth to be wine,
Therefore they him, unto the skies, Extol with praise divine.’

A genial saint, like Martin, might naturally be expected to become popular in England; and there are no less than seven churches in London and Westminster, alone, dedicated to him. There is certainly more than a resemblance between the Vinalia of the Romans, and the Martinalia of the medieval period.

Indeed, an old ecclesiastical calendar, quoted by Brand, expressly states under 11th November: ‘The Vinalia, a feast of the ancients, removed to this day. Bacchus in the figure of Martin.’ And thus, probably, it happened, that the beggars were taken from St. Martin, and placed under the protection of St. Giles; while the former became the patron saint of publicans, tavern-keepers, and other ‘dispensers of good eating and drinking. In the hall of the Vintners’ Company of London, paintings and statues of St. Martin and Bacchus reign amicably together side by side.

On the inauguration, as lord mayor, of Sir Samuel Dashwood, an honoured vintner, in 1702, the company had a grand processional pageant, the most conspicuous figure in which was their patron saint, Martin, arrayed, cap-à-pie, in a magnificent suit of polished armour; wearing a costly scarlet cloak, and mounted on a richly plumed and caparisoned white charger: two esquires, in rich liveries, walking at each side. Twenty satyrs danced before him, beating tambours, and preceded by ten halberdiers, with rural music. Ten Roman lictors, wearing silver helmets, and carrying axes and fasces, gave an air of classical dignity to the procession, and, with the satyrs, sustained the bacchanalian idea of the affair.

A multitude of beggars, ‘howling most lamentably,’ followed the warlike saint, till the procession stopped in St. Paul’s Churchyard. Then Martin, or his representative at least, drawing his sword, cut his rich scarlet cloak in many pieces, which he distributed among the beggars. This ceremony being duly and gravely performed, the lamentable howlings ceased, and the procession resumed its course to Guildhall, where Queen Anne graciously condescended to dine with the new lord mayor.

An annual post.

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